There’s a new kind of restaurateur on the rise in San Francisco: women of color, immigrants, and those who’ve previously had difficulty opening restaurants due to lack of help or capital, or both. However, new opportunities are arising to help the disadvantaged break through these barriers.
What was once an abandoned post office on the corner of Hyde Street and Golden Gate Ave in the Tenderloin is expected to become the city’s first food hall. Slated to open in 2019, the food hall will provide fresh, affordable options, an exciting addition to the neighborhood’s options for healthy fruits, vegetables, and organic offerings.
A nonprofit called La Cocina is spearheading the new venture, with a special focus on the vibrant and unique blend of cultures and architecture of the Tenderloin.
La Cocina already has kitchen space in San Francisco’s Mission District, where women in need receive mentorship and advice from the organization. The effort has seen great success as many of the graduates have used what they’ve learned to launch new brick-and-mortar food businesses that have added to the richness and diversity of San Francisco’s food scene.
“We thought, as an organization, what can we do?” says Caleb Zigas, Executive Director of La Cocina. “If the marketplace isn’t offering that but there’s clearly demand for these kinds of businesses, how can we manipulate the marketplace?” The former post office in the Tenderloin presents the perfect opportunity to do just that.
While the food hall movement is growing, it is mostly developer-driven, and doesn’t typically lower the excessive costs for would-be business owners. La Cocina has signed a seven-year lease for its food hall at a modest price with the hope that it can mirror the success of other city-sponsored initiatives in other cities–like Pike Place Market in Seattle.
“We think that people have kind of stopped doing those projects,” Zigas says. “We would like to show that there’s not only a good reason to do it, but there’s a good model to do it with, and you don’t need to look to people who are just going to target the highest income earners. There’s a lot of working-class residents who need more places to eat.”
While there is still some fundraising needed for the project, La Cocina is confident about the 2019 opening, and has its eyes on the future development. With seven former graduates of their program in tow and an on-site kitchen, the space will also support community cooking classes, pop-ups, and other events.
Tenderloin residents can expect their new food hall to be a colorful addition to this ever-evolving neighborhood. With fresh options for great, healthy food, the neighborhood is taking its rightful place among San Francisco’s most interesting and attractive destinations, all the while staying true to the roots of its community.